Updates!

All right! Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t been posting much recently, and the reason is twofold.

For one thing, my scanner is putting some severe lines through the photos and documents I’ve been scanning and it’s so bad in most cases that I don’t have enough skill to Photoshop them back to normalcy.

For two, I’ve been working on a bio of my grandfather, Johan “John” Siersema, since his birthday last week, which has included a lot of nailing down dates and details, listening to an old interview, and getting a hold of family members.

The good news is that my interviews should be done by next week, but the bad news is, I need a new scanner. I took the one I have apart to see if a good cleaning could remove the streaks from the glass, but alas it was not meant to be. I will figure something out, though.

Also recently, my cousin Anje Belmon — who is awesome and also into ancestry — has been something of a sleuth and fact checker and has uncovered lots of new information as well as a couple spelling mistakes on my part (shhhh…).

For instance, after I published the bio of Sophia van Ameringen, Anje found an entire Jewish Monument page has been dedicated to Sophia online, and there’s one for her daughter, Frederika, too. Each has a photo, which is really exciting, and additional details about them that I didn’t know. Like, Frederika lived in a home for mentally challenged people, and Sophia was in hiding with a family before being shipped to the Sobibor death camp. The Nazis searched the residence one day, didn’t take her, and then returned later for her. There’s also apparently a listing of all her worldly goods that the Nazis confiscated in The Hague, where I plan to go one day and look it up.

Anje also found the birthday of Dirk de Wit — the second of November, 1872, not sometime in 1873 like I’d thought. And she was able to identify some of the names on the photo of Klaas Siersema and his fellow military members in 1940, so I could update the tags and maybe their descendants will be able to say who they were.

I have also updated the post about Klaas Siersema and Helena “Lenie” de Wit’s divorce. Listening to an interview my grandfather did in the 80s, I discovered there was an even earlier divorce in my family’s history, where in Arentje Vermaas and Gerrit Siersema split on account of he had a severe alcoholism problem. She pretty much took their three kids and left in the late 1880s, and he eventually drank himself to death.

I also discovered what happened to Leendert Vlassbloem, who was one of the witnesses to Helena’s and Klaas’ marriage. According to the same interview with my grandfather, Leendert and his wife Leentje Siersema died of starvation within three days of each other during WWII.

And, perhaps the biggest discovery I have made so far was finding out which camp my grandfather was a prisoner of during WWII. It was Camp Amersfoort (don’t forget to turn on your Google translate if you follow that link), but more to come on that in my grandfather’s bio, I assure you.

Anyway, I’ll try to get a couple new posts up over the weekend with photos other people have scanned. And in the meantime, I’m also trying to figure out how to restore the head of this ancestor, who I think is Freerk Bellinga Swalve, since he looks super similar to a photo I have of his daughter. Maybe a hat? At this point, I’m taking suggestions.

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Trend Setters: Klaas Siersema, Helena ‘Lenie’ de Wit call it quits

Helena de Wit and Klaas Siersema in Oostvoorne, South Holland, Netherlands, in 1922, about a year before they were married.

While Klaas Siersema and Helena “Lenie” de Wit were very much in love when they wed, all things, as they say, must come to an end. A little less than six years after they were married, Klaas filed for divorce in Ginneken en Bavel, North Brabant, where they lived at the time. Helena did not protest.

The request was filed on the 30th of January, 1930 — about a year and a couple weeks following the anniversary of the death of their second son, Tonny. That’s according to a FamilySearch.org scan that a friend, Jan Brul, who I met on the Ancestry.com message boards, kindly located.

Leading up to their divorce, Klaas was away a bit as a career military man, and Helena was at home, building a relationship with the family doctor, Gerard Broeders, according to family lore. Rumor was, they became close through Tonny’s illness and death.

I believe that, at the time, divorce was rare (although it was even rarer when Klaas’ mother Arentje Vermaas divorced his father), which may have been why the divorce was registered on a marriage form. Interestingly, none of Klaas’ and Helena’s descendants in the following two generations had lasting first marriages.

In the aftermath, Helena left Klaas and their son, Johan, to be with Gerard, whom she remained in a relationship with indefinitely. She never married again.

Klaas eventually remarried to a woman named Maria Wilhelmina van Erp, who raised Johan, but I don’t know exactly when that was.

Klaas Siersema and Helena ‘Lenie’ de Wit get hitched

Wedding portrait of Klaas Siersema and Helena “Lenie” Frederika de Wit.

Original scan of Klaas Siersema and Helena de Wit’s wedding portrait

Klaas Siersema and Helena “Lenie” Frederika de Wit, my great-grandparents, were married on Aug. 28, 1923.

The photo above is a medium to heavily retouched scan of the wedding portrait for Klaas Siersema and Helena “Lenie” Frederika de Wit in 1923. Sadly, it seems as though when a marriage ends people tend to take less care of the proof it ever happened (See the thumbnail version of the original photo to the right  to see what I’m talking about — although, I guess it is also fair to note the photo has survived nearly 90 years and moving from the Netherlands to Canada to the United States).

A friend and genealogy enthusiast I met through the Ancestry.com message boards was able to track down their wedding certificate on FamilySearch.org, but that organization claims the copyright to all its scans so I cannot post it here. Luckily, my friend, Jan Brul, knows both Dutch and English and graciously translated the text (Note: He admits his English is not the best, so please be aware this is a rough translation, even though I’ve cleaned it up where I could.):

“On the twenty-eighth August, nineteen-hundred twenty-three, are for me

Civil servant of the registration of the county ‘s-Hertogenbosch appeared

Klaas Siersema, first Lieutenant of the Infantry, age twenty-seven years, born at Groningen, living at Venlo, major, son of Gerrit Siersema, deceased, and Arentje Vermaas, shopkeeper, age fifty-seven years, living in Brielle

And Helena Frederika de Wit, without profession, age nineteen years, born in Beverwijk, living here, minor, daughter of Dirk de Wit, schoolteacher, age fifty years, and Wubbina Engellina Johanna Petronella Swalve, without profession, age forty-three years, both living here

For the purpose of getting married. The banns were without protest here registered on Saturday the fourth of August last and in Venlo on Saturday the eleventh of August next. The mother of the groom and the parents of the bride, here present, have declared that they agree with this marriage.

The future spouses have for me and in the presence of witnesses declared that they each other will accept as spouses and will do all duties required by marriage. So in the name of the law, I have declared that they are united in matrimony. This marriage is declared in the presence of the witness Leendert Vlasbloem, office worker, age thirty-nine years, living in Rotterdam, Nicholaas Gerardus Petrus van Reenen, office worker, age fifty-two years, living in Utrecht, relatives by marriage in the second and third degree of the first spouse. This record is read for the appeared parties and witnesses. The civil servant of the civil registration.”

The actual ceremony took place in the Netherlands Reformed Church in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, where Lenie’s father Dirk was an active and high-standing member.

I find the witnesses particularly interesting. Leendert was married to Klaas’ sister, Leentje, and they had a daughter named Ada who was close with my grandfather (Klaas and Lenie’s son) growing up, but I have no idea what happened to her. It makes sense that he would be a witness. But as for Nicholaas, I have never heard or seen his name, so I am even more curious to know how he comes into the picture.

Here is what their wedding invitations looked like (the paper is thick and watermarked):

Klaas Siersema and Helena de Wit’s wedding invitation

Bio: Dirk de Wit (1872)

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Dirk de Wit was born in Buren, Netherlands, the second of November, 1872, according to a record on FamilySearch.org, to Hendrika Goudsblom, a servant, and Dirk de Wit (1833), a municipal constable.

He was their second child by that name, as was tradition if the first child of a given name died very young. He never met siblings Johannes Gerardus de Wit [1867-1868] or Dirk de Wit [1870-1871], but he did have a sister who survived into adulthood, Dirkje de Wit [about 1858-1939]. Dirkje was a product of their father and his first wife, Alijda Zoelen.

Dirk was a passionate man who courted his wife, Wubbina Swalve, for at least four years before they married in her hometown of Beverwijk, North Holland, on Aug. 15, 1902.

Dirk became a father in 1903, when Wubbina, again in Beverwijk, gave birth to a daughter whom they named Helena Frederika.

A Protestant, Dirk was very devoted to his faith. Although he worked as a teacher and was listed as such on most official documentation throughout his life, he also held many prominent and important positions with the Dutch Reformed Church.

As for his profession, Dirk taught at the Nutschool for at least 20 years, according to a Google translation of the newspaper account of his funeral service. I believe this was in s-Hertogenbosch, where he died and where obituary accounts note a strong contingent from the Nutschool in attendance.

In the Dutch Reformed Church, he was a member of the council, secretary treasurer of the Board of Deacons and administer prelate, according to an obituary clipping, which also noted that he was the founding president of the choir, Excelsior, and president of “Our Covenant.”

He also did philanthropic work and was appointed to the Board of Directors for the Armenraad (or Arms Council in English), which was an organization that helped the needy.

He died on the 18th of June, 1926, in s-Hertogenbosch. He was 53 years old.

Aside from obituary and funeral coverage, most information for this bio came from digital records on Genlias.nl.

Bio: Sophia van Ameringen

Sophia van Ameringen was born on the fourth of July, 1871, in den Helder, North Holland, Netherlands, to Judith Cijfer and Ahron van Ameringen.

She may have had a brother named Andrew, or a brother named Abraham, or possibly both (I’m working on figuring that out).

On the 17th of December, 1890, in Amsterdam, when she was just 19 years old, Sophia married Maurits “Mozes” Lopes-Cardozo.

From their union, she bore four daughters: Esther, Henriette, Frederica and Louise. Esther was born in 1891, Henriette was born in 1893, Frederica was born in 1897, and Louise was born in 1903. Family documentation puts most of those births in Amsterdam, so I believe that is where she and Mozes resided. Sophia was also later a grandmother several times over.

She was widowed in 1921, when Mozes died in Hilversum.

Sophia was murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust on the 26th of March, 1943, in Sobibor, Poland. She and her mentally challenged daughter, Frederica, were two of the approximately 167,000 people killed in the extermination camp there, according to the Holocaust Encyclopedia website and family sources. Sophia was 71.

WWII: Photo of Klaas Siersema and fellow Royal Netherlands officers in 1940

Klaas Siersema and fellow Royal Netherlands military members on the 15th of July, 1940.

This is a slightly retouched photo of Klaas Siersema, second from the bottom right, and his fellow Royal Netherlands military officers on July 15, 1940. At this time, judging by the stars on Klaas’ collar, he had achieved the rank of captain.

On the back, it says that these are the officers of the battalion that Niek commanded, according to a translation my cousin Anje Belmon graciously did. Unfortunately, I have no way of knowing who Niek was. Update: About a week following this post, I listened to a 1980s audio interview my mother, Joy Siersema, did with my grandfather and Klaas’ son, Johan Siersema. From the interview, I learned that Klaas went by Niek, so these would have been the soldiers under his command.

As for who the other officers are, the writing on the back of the photo has some clues. The wording, as best as I can make out, reads: “n.d. Sluis – Roos – Tiele – ‘t Mannetje – van der Beek – unreadable – unreadable – van Dok – Boekholt – Schul – van Boal – unreadable – van den Tut.”

The writing on the back also notes that four men are missing from the photo. Their last names were — again as best as I can make out — Ter Hal, Nahuiser, Schiere and Meyer.

Trust me, though, the names are not easy to read! So if you see something different from what I’ve written here, please leave a note in the comments and I can update the tags so if any descendants of these gentlemen are searching for them, they may have a better chance of finding this post. [Hint: If you click on the thumbnail, it will take you to a larger image.]

WWI: Photo of Klaas Siersema and fellow soldiers in Kampen in 1915

This is a retouched photo of my great-grandfather, Klaas Siersema (at far left), and some of his fellow soldiers in the Royal Netherlands military in Kampen, Overijssel, during WWI. This was very early in his career, and he would have been about 20 years old. I believe that, at this time, he was a Vaandrig (officer cadet), judging by his promotion to Tweede-Luitenant (second lieutenant) a couple years later.

WWI: Ministry of War promotes Klaas Siersema to Tweede-Luitenant

In this document dated Sept. 25, 1917, my great-grandfather Klaas Siersema, who served in the Royal Netherlands military, is promoted to the rank of Tweede-Luitenant by the Minister van Oorlog. In English, Minister van Oorlog translates to Ministry of War and Tweede-Luitenant is Second Lieutenant, according to Google Translate.

Unfortunately, the document’s actual size is a bit larger than the face of my scanner, so this is just a photograph of the of it, which means it’s a little less crisp and readable. But, you can still see one of the most interesting things, which is that “Bij het Regiment” is crossed out and “den Sergeant” was written below. I am super curious what this means and if it had something to do with it being WWI, and possibly promotions being handled differently? If anyone has a thought on that, I’d love to hear it.